How a BC NDP government affects transportation plans in the region
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
Premier John Horgan and his cabinet were sworn into legislature on July 18, marking the beginning of a new government in BC—and the Mayor’s Council has wasted no time bringing up the topic of transportation.
One of the provincial government’s first actions was to move TransLink under the responsibility of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Bowinn Ma, the MLA for North Vancouver, was assigned as its minister.
“It is an issue that I am passionate about. I am an avid public transit user. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to serve BC and the North Shore,” Ma said to the North Shore News.
Ma, a former engineer and project manager for the Vancouver Airport Authority, has received an early approval from the Mayor’s Council, who have long struggled to reach agreements with the previous provincial government in regards to funding and planning future transportation infrastructure.
“I think she’s got a really interesting background with an engineering degree and connection to transportation policy, so I think she’ll be very knowledgeable,” said New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote, who has been very proactive in planning the region’s transportation strategy, to the Vancouver Sun. “Our goal is to really advance our top priorities over the fall period, and hopefully by the end of the year have substantial resolution on some of these thorny transportation quagmires that have been taking way too long to resolve.”
Some of the major TransLink projects that the Mayor’s Council have advocated for include light-rail service between Surrey and Langley, expanding the SkyTrain to Arbutus or UBC, and massive increases to bus service. These are all projects that would be overseen by Ma.
Ma is not the only minister that will oversee the transportation issues as a whole in the Lower Mainland. Claire Trevena, an NDP MLA from North Island, has been made the new Minister of Transportation. Trevena will see to issues surrounding roads, bridges, and tolls in her new role.
Among the Mayor’s Council’s top priorities is replacing the Patullo Bridge, which will reach the end of its serviceable life by 2023 if it goes without major renovations or replacement. A similar plan exists for the George Massey Bridge, which will replace the existing George Massey tunnel. Under the BC Liberal government, payment for new bridges would have involved tolls after its completion. However, with Horgan’s promise of removing existing bridge tolls, how the new Patullo Bridge and George Massey Bridge will be funded remains uncertain.
“I think there are going to be a number of files at the top of my desk, but tolls obviously, people have been dealing with these for too many years,” Trevena said to the Vancouver Sun. “We’ve said very clearly in our platform that we want to eliminate the tolls, and we will do that.”